Former Los Angeles Kings forward Marian Gaborik announced his retirement on Thursday. The official announcement was a formality more than anything, as Gaborik has not played an NHL game since the 2017-18 season. Still, it’s worth reflecting on his time with the Kings’ organization and the impact he had.
Heading into the 2014 trade deadline, the Kings wanted to add an offensive spark to their lineup as they were vying for their second Cup in three years. After they successfully traded for Jeff Carter in 2012, they returned to the Columbus Blue Jackets in search of another disgruntled star. They found their man in Gaborik who, like Carter, was not happy in Columbus, and with one year left on his contract, the Kings struck a fantastic deal, sending Matt Frattin, a 2014 third-round pick, and a 2014 second-round pick to the Blue Jackets for the three-time 40-goal scorer.
Gaborik’s Immediate Impact
Gaborik looked like a man reborn when he arrived in LA, grabbing 16 points in 19 games during the regular season. He was an instant success, as his speed and finishing ability added a new element to the team’s first line. But it was in the playoffs that he made his biggest impact. He was solid in the team’s historic first-round defeat of the San Jose Sharks to become the fourth team in history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit. He had no points in the first two games, but he found his game, grabbing five points in the next five to help complete the comeback. But it was in the next series that he cemented his legacy.
The second-round matchup against the Anaheim Ducks was the first time the cross-town rivals met in the postseason. Gaborik made his presence known early with three points on three Kings goals in the series’ opening game, including the game-tying goal with seven seconds left and the overtime winner. He demolished the Ducks in the series, scoring 10 points in seven games to help the Kings advance to their third straight Conference Final.
His production slowed after that, with 7 points in his next twelve games, but the Kings won their second Cup in three years. His 14 goals led the playoffs, as did his 11 even-strength goals. He lifted his first Stanley Cup, earning 22 points overall. He looked like the 40-goal scorer he was with the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild. After this fantastic run, the Kings signed Gaborik to a 7-year, $34.125 million contract during the offseason. A risky deal for any player with his injury history and of his age.
Gaborik’s Long-Term Impact
Given his contract, expectations were high entering the 2014-15 season, and he was expected to continue his elite goal-scoring pace from the playoffs. Though he may not have returned to his early form, he was very good for the Kings that season, with 27 goals in 69 games, leading the team in goals per game. He scored at a 32-goal pace, but the Kings disappointingly missed the playoffs.
His solid play in the 2014-15 season made his $5 million cap hit seem reasonable. Unfortunately, injuries again took their toll, as they had done often in Gaborik’s career. He spent the next two and a half seasons with the Kings but failed to score more than 12 goals in a season. He was then traded to the Ottawa Senators with Nick Shore for Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson. The teams swapped terrible contracts – the Kings bought out Phaneuf’s in 2019. The first 18 months of Gaborik’s tenure with the team was magnificent, but it came crashing down quickly.
Despite his struggles, Gaborik was an invaluable addition to the Kings and should be remembered as one of the best Kings trades in recent history. They gave up very little for a player who was instrumental in their 2014 Cup win. He may be remembered more for his time with the Rangers and Wild, but Kings fans will never forget his contribution to the organization. He turned back the clock in 2014 and gave them a very solid season after that.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.